Comma after 'so'

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Could someone please help to clear up the issue of placing a comma after 'so' at the start of a sentence.

I've seen with, thus:

"So, you work here in town?"
"So, is he home?"
"So, I've just gotta call my husband to tell him his dinner's in the microwave, then we'll be on our way."

And I've seen without. Are both forms acceptable, and it's just a matter of preference? Or is there a (near) definitive rule?

Your thoughts would be appreciated.
 

Anglika

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In this form, it is more that the "So" is being used like "Well,". It has no particular meaning or relevance, and will usually be written with a comma. It is essentially an abbreviation for "So tell me".
 

MrPedantic

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I wonder whether we could say that the comma indicates a pause, in such sentences; and that the versions without commas would seem more curious, interested, pressing, urgent, hurried, etc., according to context.

MrP
 

Casiopea

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I wonder whether we could say that the comma indicates a pause, in such sentences; and that the versions without commas would seem more curious, interested, pressing, urgent, hurried, etc., according to context.
Why not? The comma's function is to set off a word or phrase that has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. That is, you wouldn't want to add a comma here:

Max: Why did you turn off the alarm?
Sam: So I could sleep in. <so that...>
Max: Well, you're late for work!
Sam: OK. OK.

As for introductory so, the comma isn't always necessary, but then again punctuation kind of has its perks:

Max: So! Are you getting up or what?
Max: So are you getting up or what?

What are your thoughts?
 

MrPedantic

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What are your thoughts?
Well, I find I use the comma in two ways: to set off a word or phrase (comma of sense), and to indicate a pause (comma of performance). Often the two coincide; but sometimes there's a difference, e.g.

1. So, do you want to go out tonight, or would you rather stay at home?
2. So do you want to go out tonight or would you rather stay at home?

#2 (to me) would suggest "impatience", while #1 wouldn't necessarily.

Cf.

3. The main thing, however, is to remain calm at all times.
4. The main thing however is to remain calm at all times.

#3 (to me) suggests a greater emphasis on the howeveriness of the sentence (though I know that some advocate surrounding commas in all contexts for "however").

MrP
 

Casiopea

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( ... I know that some advocate surrounding commas in all contexts for "however")
I, for one, believe that as long as you know how to use punctuation (well), you can do with it how(ever) you please because you understand its nature. ;-)
 

ABDALLA ALI

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I took that comma follows so only if it is a conjugation (fan boys)
 

Barb_D

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Actually, in the FANBOYS, it would go before the word, not after.

In the cases described above, "So" is just a meaningless and mild interjection.
 

ABDALLA ALI

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sometime it can be an adverb
 

kfredson

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Well, I find I use the comma in two ways: to set off a word or phrase (comma of sense), and to indicate a pause (comma of performance). Often the two coincide; but sometimes there's a difference, e.g.

1. So, do you want to go out tonight, or would you rather stay at home?
2. So do you want to go out tonight or would you rather stay at home?

#2 (to me) would suggest "impatience", while #1 wouldn't necessarily.

Cf.

3. The main thing, however, is to remain calm at all times.
4. The main thing however is to remain calm at all times.

#3 (to me) suggests a greater emphasis on the howeveriness of the sentence (though I know that some advocate surrounding commas in all contexts for "however").

MrP

Nothing pedantic about this post. Your points are most interesting. I'm still pondering "howeveriness." As one who has been in the "comma before and after however" camp, I can now say you have opened my mind to a new possibility. Thanks!
 
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